Obviously I have retirement on the brain lately. Turning 40 will do that to a person! Even though we probably have at least a decade before pulling the trigger, I’m already thinking about where we’d like to live and what sort of life we’d like to have when 9-5 doesn’t matter anymore. One rule that I’ve also tried to practice since we started down the correct financial path is to look at today’s purchases and think about how they will impact the future. A good exercise I would recommend for everyone is to ask how many years of retirement will that cost?
Thinking Long Term
Especially with recent events in my family, I want to enjoy every day and live in the here and now. That doesn’t mean I’m not always thinking about the future. A huge reason people stay in debt or can’t save money is that they live too much in the present. While it might be fun to finance that huge flat TV to watch football this winter, what is that worth in retirement years? If you don’t want to work until you drop, it’s time to start thinking long term.
How Many Years Common Purchases Cost
We had satellite TV up until 15 months ago. We paid an average of $80 a month to have background noise as we only actually sat down to watch for a few hours a week. Netflix probably didn’t exist when we first started paying for TV, but let’s just say we rented movies and used an antenna back then and switched to streaming services when it came available. That’s a savings of $70 a month, invested in an IRA at 7% over 14 years, that’s $20,268! Is watching Kim Kardashian’s a$$ worth $20K?
Another good example is with buying cars. From 2000-2012 we always had at least one, often two car payments. When our vehicles turned 3 or 4 years old, we’d trade them in for brand new ones. Even though we usually bought Toyotas and Hondas, our payments for two cars were usually somewhere between $500-$800 a month, for years! If we’d bought used cars, kept them until they wore out, and put $500 a month into an IRA at 7% interest, we’d now have over $114,000. Instead, we have two vehicles that will decrease in value each year until they are worth almost nothing.
Since we project our retirement expenses to be around $3000 per month, buying all those cars cost us over three years of retirement. We only did it for 12 years. If you play revolving cars for 30 years, that’s over $600,000 literally up in fumes!
What Do Purchases Do To Debt Payoff?
If retirement seems too far away of if you are really just into the moment, use this exercise when thinking about debt. The only money we owe right now is to mortgage companies, but feel free to substitute any random debt you might have.
Last year, I really wanted to hire a maid. I was sick of mopping, sweeping, cleaning toilets. Not fun. It would have cost around $200 a month to hire someone to clean for me. That didn’t seem like much money. I was all ready to start interviewing when I did some math.
If we applied $200 a month to our mortgage instead of hiring a maid, that means we get to pay off our house 6 months earlier. A half year of no mortgage is worth much more than having someone vacuum my floor. Unlike Mrs. Frugalwoods, I still haven’t found my cleaning zen, but instead of thinking about dirt, dust, and dog prints, I think about owning our house outright.
So You Never Spend Any Money?
I don’t want to deceive anyone into thinking we never spend money. We spend on lots of things. We put about $6000 a year toward travel. I buy organic milk and shelled pistachios. Jim got a new mountain bike last week, and we’re about to prepay for our skiing this year. We also use our money to invest in different accounts like our online brokerage or online cfds accounts. Aren’t we hypocrites?
No, the reason is that we still think long term. I realize taking vacations or going to ski might cost us several years of retirement, but that is a sacrifice that we’re willing to accept. Driving a new car or having a manicure every month are not things we value enough to trade for years of work. I’m not trying to decide what things are important to you, but finally realizing the future value of our choices can be a huge eye opener. If everyone spent money out of value and not based on habits or what society says is normal, I think we’d all be much happier.
What has mindless spending cost you in terms of your future? Do you think about how purchases today affect long term goals?